January 3, 2011

Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice

Oh Arizona, you never cease to amaze me. This was mentioned back in May of 2010 when the depths of the Arizona Republican establishment’s xenophobia, nativism, and ethnocentrism (I’m purposefully stopping just short of using the term “blatantly racist”) are laid bare for the world to see, but the issue has come back up thanks to the fact that on January 1st a new law that effectively banned ethnic studies programs in the state, ensuring that the only history students in Arizona get to hear is good old fashioned edited White American History, nothing more and nothing less.

Here’s the scoop:

While much condemnation has rightly been expressed toward Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070, a less-reported and potentially more sinister measure is set to take effect on January 1, 2011. This new law, which was passed by the conservative state legislature at the behest of then-School Superintendent (and now Attorney General-elect) Tom Horne, is designated HB 2281 and is colloquially referred to as a measure to ban ethnic studies programs in the state. As with SB 1070, the implications of this law are problematic, wide-ranging and decidedly hate filled.

Whereas SB 1070 focused primarily on the ostensible control of bodies, HB 2281 is predominantly about controlling minds. In this sense, it is the software counterpart of Arizona’s race-based politicking, paired with the hardware embodied in SB 1070’s “show us your papers” logic of “attrition through enforcement,” which has already resulted in tens of thousands of people leaving the state. With HB 2281, the intention is not so much to expel or harass as it is to inculcate a deep-seated, second-class status by denying people the right to explore their own histories and cultures. It is, in effect, about the eradication of ethnic identity among young people in the state’s already-floundering school system, which now ranks near the bottom in the nation.

I really couldn’t put it any better than that – the goal here is the same as most American nativists have: to make sure the country’s official sentiment towards any newcomer is “if you must come to our country, at least make sure you assimilate as much as possible and become as much like us as you possibly can. Your identity and individual culture is of no interest to us.” Which, of course, is a shame, considering it’s more than clear that while there’s definitely an American “identity,” it’s by no means exclusive of anyone’s cultural heritage – quite the contrary, the cultural diversity of the American people are the components that make up that so-called identity.

But still, it gets worse:

There’s a word for what Arizona is attempting to do here: ethnocide. It is similar to genocide in its scope, but it reflects the notion that it is an ethnic and/or cultural identity under assault more so than physical bodies themselves. By imposing a curriculum that forbids the exploration of divergent cultures while propping up the dominant one, there’s another process at work here, what we might call ethnonormativity. This takes the teachings of one culture – the colonizer’s – and makes it the standard version of history while literally banning other accounts, turning the master narrative into the “normal” one, and further denigrating marginalized perspectives. America’s racialized past abounds with such examples of oppressed people being denied their languages, histories and cultures, including through enforced indoctrination in school systems.

As if to add insult to injury, HB 2281 barely makes a pretense to hide any of this in its language and intended scope.

The rest of the piece is an amazing close reading of the law that explains and exposes some of its more sinister goals – ones that, if the law stands up in court (which it likely won’t,) could be a bad sign for all Americans, as other states looking to marginalize its minority populations follow suit.

[ Arizona Bans Ethnic Studies and, Along With it, Reason and Justice ]
Source: TruthOut

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